First large-scale trial of stem cell therapy for knee osteoarthritis launched

Kolling researcher Professor David Hunter will lead one of the world’s largest clinical trials into the effectiveness of stem cell therapy for those with knee osteoarthritis.

More than 400 participants will be recruited for the SCUlpTOR study which will see trial sites established at Royal North Shore Hospital and the Menzies Institute in Hobart.

Professor Hunter, the Florance and Cope Chair of Rheumatology at the University of Sydney, said the two-year study represents the first of its type to test stem cell therapy for osteoarthritis.

“We will evaluate whether stem cell injections can improve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease in people with mild to moderate knee osteoarthritis,” he said.

“Participants will receive three injections over a 12 month period, with researchers to assess levels of pain, physical activity and quality of life throughout the trial.”

All participants will receive the same stem cell product, developed from cells from a single young healthy person.

The study follows some small trials which have indicated stem cell therapy may reduce inflammation, and help the body repair cartilage.

Professor Hunter said there is tremendous community interest and many stem cell products available, but to date, there has been no good, rigorous evidence to suggest these products are effective in this context.

“It’s really important that we have high-quality trials like this one to produce the evidence that we need around efficacy and safety.

“Osteoarthritis is steadily increasing in prevalence due to our ageing population and the high numbers of people above a healthy weight.

“It’s important that we can offer those managing the condition a range of treatment options, on top of the existing conservative approach of weight loss and exercise.”

The trial has been welcomed by 61 year old Tom Buttel who has experienced knee osteoarthritis for most of his life after a rugby injury in his teens.

“Osteoarthritis has had a big impact on my life, causing considerable pain and limiting quite a few daily tasks,” he said.

“I have found, however, that by maintaining my weight and adhering to a personally-tailored exercise program, I’ve been in a much better position to manage my condition.

“I’m very excited by the trial and encouraged that it may be an important step towards a safe and effective treatment for people with osteoarthritis.”

Further information about the SCUlpTOR study is available at: